Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today's Tiny Harvest

We're nearing the end of our summer grape-tomato harvest. I also decided to bring in some more lemon balm and thyme to dry, as I have a ton of both. Like my colander? It's a Japanese rice-rinser/strainer--hence the pouring spout and tiny holes on the bottom (which you can't see in this photo). Real Japanese rice needs to be rinsed before it's cooked, in case you didn't know.

We'll be doing a bit of fall planting in our little raised beds this weekend. What are you growing in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nettles Aplenty

One of the most ab-fab things about our village is that we have these wonderful paths for walking and biking (well, they're pretty nice for farmers and all of their equipment, too). This one runs behind our house.

Remember how I was talking about borage recently? Another wild plant growing in insane abundance around here is stinging nettles, and I found a perfect patch flourishing alongside this path.

As you can see, I had thought to bring my colander, scissors, and the all-important gloves. I'm new to using nettles, but I've been doing some research, and with the new fall crop so handy, I thought it was a great time to do some harvesting.

I'd been out solo that day, but a couple of days later, The Husband and I headed by bike into the forest that begins just down our street.

Of course, we spotted loads of nettles, and I (necessary supplies in tow again) had to stop for more. This patch wasn't as fresh-looking--I can afford to be picky--but I still snagged enough for two nice cups of tea that evening. The Husband is usually willing to try my foraged concoctions as long as he feels certain I'm not trying to poison him; The Boy, who needed the tea due to a cough, is a tougher sell. After repeated urging, though, I think he drank most of his. He hadn't keeled over from the potato and nettle soup I'd served the night before...

For a fantastic array of info on using nettles, go here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sunday Afternoon in Luxembourg

photo credits 2, 4: The Boy

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Borage Aplenty

Before moving to Germany, I knew next to nothing about the herb borage. Even after moving into our house and finding a bunch of furry, blue-flowered plants out back, The Husband and I didn't know what they were (nor, oddly, did our garden-happy neighbor, who is older and has lived in this area all her life--turns out she's more of a Flower Person). After asking another German friend, we learned that our plants were, in fact, the edible herb borage. I really wasn't sure how to use them, especially since the leaves and stems are fairly spiky, so I didn't bother with them for a long time. 

Though we got rid of most of what we had while putting in two raised beds, a couple of the plants came back heartily this summer (apparently they pretty much grow like weeds in our area and are sometimes used in a well-known Frankfurter "green sauce" eaten with potatoes at certain times). I decided it was time to learn more about this free food growing next to our strawberries and tomatoes. According to some of my research, borage is a good anti-anxiety/stress, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diarrheal herb that can also help with hormone regulation, fevers, skin ailments, and coughs. Flavor is cucumber-like, and in fact, borage is often paired with cucumbers in recipes.

We've started using the leaves to make tea--a good way to avoid/diminish the spikiness of the leaves. To infuse, pour a cup of boiling water over 1/4 cup bruised fresh leaves. Steep five minutes. The flowers can also be used in teas or in drinks or atop salads or desserts. Since our own plants aren't supplying us with as many leaves as we've been wanting lately, we did a bit of--um, foraging during our bike ride the other day. Don't worry, our neighbor has plenty to spare!

Here's a good link about using borage, and here's another one, with recipes

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

By Bike in September

Ah, yes--we are indeed back in Germany now. School has begun, and we're starting to settle back into a routine. The weather was beautiful here for much of the weekend, so we decided to take a bike ride en famille (minus The Girl, who was in Paris with a friend's family). There are some great paved walking and biking trails in our village, beginning behind our house and just down the street. This is one we've walked many times in the past two years, but for several reasons, we hadn't biked there yet. 

Here's The Husband, atop my persimmon-colored Japanese cruiser. His much-used-in-past-years, fancy American mountain bike is pretty much out of commission--one reason we hadn't been riding together. He thinks he wants his own cruiser now--too bad we didn't buy him one while we were still in Japan, where this kind of bike is ubiquitous (and cheaper than here).

photo credit: The Boy

Our neighbor owns a large patch alongside the path, where he grows all manner of flowers, herbs, and veggies. Outside his home and throughout this space, he proves that he's truly a master gardener.

A short ride through the woods dead-ends into this open field, overlooking a neighboring village.

On the way back home, The Boy couldn't resist snapping a photo of one of The Ladies, who posed obligingly. Lovely!
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